Manchester City are a tasty 13/8 to draw first blood against United in the Carling Cup

Manchester City v Manchester United, Carling Cup semi-final first leg, January 19, 2010

Manchester City 13/8; Draw 5/2; Manchester United 15/8

The first Carling Cup semi-final first leg between Blackburn and Aston Villa passed off with little fanfare but the clash between the two Manchester giants is one of the most eagerly awaited ties in the competition’s history. Somehow there is a feeling surrounding these two games that not only does the Carling Cup final await the victor, but that it could also signal a fundamental sea change in one of the most one sided derbies in world football. (Manchester City are 21/20 to qualify the tie, Manchester United are 5/6.)

After Manchester United had seen off Tottenham in the quarter final, Sir Alex Ferguson was adamant that he would continue to play the kids in the competition. Some patchy form in December, combined with the shock FA Cup home defeat to Leeds, and the Scot’s hatred for the riches at Eastlands means it is likely to be a mix of youngsters and veterans that turn up at the home of their great local rivals.

Ferguson is well aware that City are desperate for silverware in any competition and he is eager not to put the Manchester United support through another defeat to a local rival after they endured the heroics of Jermaine Beckford and co just a few weeks ago. Sir Alex said in his press conference ahead of the Burnley match that “The derby is a fans’ game really and we have enough players who know about that, such as Giggs, Paul Scholes, Gary Neville, Darren Fletcher and Wes Brown.”

Of those players, Darren Fletcher and Ryan Giggs played no part in the 3-0 Premier League win on Saturday and they could well start at Middle Eastlands. We can also expect at least one if not both of the Da Silva twins to make the first XI and Ferguson added before his new signing scored on Saturday that “there is a definite chance that [Mame Biram] Diouf will be involved.” (Manchester United are 15/2 to win both halves, 1/25 against.)

For City the choices are less clear cut as the club look to claim some silverware that will give a major boost to the Abu Dhabi driven “project.” For Manchester City boss Roberto Mancini there will be no resting of key men as he looks to guide the Citizens to Wembley. (Manchester City are 8/11 to win both halves, 1/14 against.)

All eyes will be on Carlos Tevez who will be eager to make his former employers pay for not signing him in the summer. Tevez has scored in the last five home games and including the blip at Everton has now claimed 11 goals in his last nine matches to make a mockery of the pundits who claimed he wasn’t a goal scorer. (Manchester City are 13/5 to score both halves, 1/4 against.)

Robinho’s involvement will also be keenly watched after the substitute was substituted at Goodison but with Mancini a romantic at heart, following a playing career where he excelled in a free role, it would be no surprise if the Brazilian is given a free role.

Elsewhere in the City side, Patrick Vieira will be hoping to return to fitness to resume battle with an old enemy and Craig Bellamy and Martin Petrov will be chomping at the bit to show what they can do going forward. The Manchester City defence looked a little suspect at Everton and it would be no surprise to see Shay Given called into action.

First leg derby matches are often cagey (20/21 to be under 2.5 goals, 21/20 to be over) but these two teams only know one way to play and the previous encounter between the sides this season suggests we are in for a cracker over the two matches. Michael Owen was the match winner in the epic 4-3 victory (6/1 to be over 4.5 goals) in September which had “the biggest build-up to a derby I’d probably ever known,” according to Ryan Giggs.

City could edge this one but they are unlikely to win the tie at Eastlands and the first 90 minutes could well set up a real humdinger at Old Trafford.

101gg predicts: Manchester City 2 – Manchester United 1 (11/1)

Manchester City 13/8; Draw 5/2; Manchester United 15/8

Full match odds here.